Thursday, February 25, 2010

Update on Marketing Strategy: Drilling Down

My marketing coach, the inspiration for my earlier post on Drilling Down, has changed her company name to People Biz., Inc. and has a new URL:

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Indiana Assn of Mediators Marketing Conference 2/27. I'm the featured speaker!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Really excited for the Indiana Assn of Mediators Conference!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Looking forward to helping people get married.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Marketing Strategy: Drilling Down

Marketing Strategy: Drilling Down

© 2008, Diana Mercer, Founder, Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc.

You’ve got a great marketing plan and lots of terrific ideas yet you’re still not making any money.

What’s wrong? Isn’t hard work and great customer service enough? Isn’t networking like crazy sufficient? Why doesn’t the money follow all this hard work?

I consider myself to be the World’s Foremost Expert in What Doesn’t Work when Marketing an Service Business. It’s a title I’m hoping to relinquish, and I think I’m getting closer to the solution. A major part of that solution will be drilling down.

Consider the farmer looking for water on his property. He digs a 6 foot hole, doesn’t find water, and so he digs another 6 foot hole a few feet away. Not finding water, he digs again. And again. Pretty soon, his property is full of 6 feet holes. Frustrated, he sells the property for a song because it has no well. The next farmer picks one of the holes and digs down 30 feet, finds water, puts in a pump and a tank and then rents a back hoe to fill in those pesky holes dotting the property.

By always trying to move onto the next big thing we’re like the first farmer, digging a little bit and then moving on, without really concentrating our efforts on any one thing.

The stack of business cards never entered into your database, that promising person you met at a networking function who you never followed up with, the web site you haven’t updated in 8 months, the half-written articles and the LinkedIn profile where you never uploaded your headshot are all of your 6 foot deep holes.

So by drilling down I mean digging deeper into the details of each of your marketing ideas and plans. Rather than trying to think up the next big thing, focus on what you’re currently doing and doing well, and those activities which already bring results or which look promising. Find 2 or 3 things to focus on. You can go back to the other 98 things later using the same process.

Isolate each of these activities and write down the steps which make each successful and worthwhile. Write out the steps so that anyone could do them. Get really detailed.

There are 2 reasons for doing this: The first is that you need to be sure that you have all of the steps down in order and that you are actually following through on each to the end rather than stopping halfway. No more 6 foot holes! You also want to be able to change some of the steps if you figure out a more profitable or efficient way of completing the task.

The second reason is that you may be doing all of these steps now, by yourself, but one day you will have a marketing assistant who will do many of them, so you need to have them written down. The more structure you have to the tasks the easier it is to assign them to someone else, and the more you can break them down into simple steps that are easy to measure the less you’ll pay for your marketing assistant labor. While you may need to personally write articles, for example, you could hire a law student to post them on the internet. You may need to design your brochure, but that same law student could do the mailing.

The next step is to figure out how you’ll measure the results of each activity. Quantify everything until you can decide which details are helpful and which are not. Make tracking sheets so that you have records of each activity and so that you’re sure you’ve thoroughly done each one. A typical tracking sheet at Peace Talks includes the expected result, the amount of time spent doing a task, the cost of doing the task, and whether at first glance it seems like it would make sense do to the task again, and, if so, when, and whether there’s anything you would change about the task next time.

If you use attending the Local Bar Association Holiday Party as an example, your tracking sheet will include your goals for going to the party, which might be to connect with 3 lawyers you’ve provided services for in the last year but with whom you haven’t had a chance to follow up. You’ll spend 3 hours travelling to and from the event and attending. The event cost is $50. After the event you’ll make a note about what went well and what fell short of expectations, and you’ll decide whether this is an event you should go to again.

Let’s say that you decide it was worth the time and money, but realize that another lawyer in your building who has referred business to you was also there. Next year, you could suggest carpooling with her so that you get a chance to make your travel time productive. You may also find that because it’s a mixer, you really have the chance to talk with more than 3 people, so next year’s goals for the event include reconnecting with 3 people but also meeting 6 new people. And, you’ve decided you’ll ask those first 3 people to make introductions to people in the room they think you should know. That makes it a warm introduction and it gives your contact a reason to circulate and brag on you, making her look well-connected and in-the-know.

If you’d left all of these details simply in your head, you probably wouldn’t do anything differently next year, and you’d miss all the great opportunities you identified after this year’s event.

By quantifying the activity in terms of goals and expected outcomes along with opportunity cost (the time you spent) and out-of-pocket cost, you’ll soon decide if, compared to other marketing activities you’re keeping track of in the same way, whether this activity is cost-effective and worthwhile. So when you get next year’s invitation, you’ll know in an instant if you think you ought to attend that event or spend your time and money somewhere else.

Much credit is due to my marketing coach, Alicia Marie Fruin, of Profit Consulting,, who introduced me to the concept of drilling down in her $89 tele-workshop. And yes, I go to these things so you don’t have to, but according to my drilling down tracking sheet, that was the best $89 and 4 hours on the phone I’ve ever spent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Free Mediation Services for Laid Off Workers


Contact: Diana Mercer
Phone (310) 301-2100


Show us your layoff slip or foreclosure judgment, and the mediation’s on us” says Diana Mercer, Founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc. “Don’t let the burden of a failed marriage jeopardize your chance for a fresh start.”

“I’ve already been criticized that I’m encouraging divorce but a free divorce doesn’t entice anyone who wasn’t already on that path. Nobody would accept a free funeral who didn’t need one, and the same is true of divorce,” says Mercer.

You’ve read the stories about people staying together because they can’t afford to get divorced.[1] But are the short term savings worth the toll on your long term well-being?

A 2003 study led by Jacquelyn Campbell at the John Hopkins University School of Nursing found that unemployment is the single strongest predictor in cases where men murder their wives. An abuser's lack of a job increased the risk of femicide fourfold.[2]

Domestic violence programs report that victims are experiencing an increase in abuse in part because out-of-work abusers have more opportunity to batter. Rhode Island, for example, has recently seen a 25% increase in felony-level domestic violence crimes.[3]

The good news is that as soon as a year after a divorce, the couple’s standard of living may actually rise as the dust settles. Graphic designer Adam Weston turned his journey into a healing blog,, and sites like First Wives World focus on the healing end rather than prolonging the grief. Most people take on some sort of self-improvement journey after a divorce[4].

Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc.,, teams attorneys and therapists as mediators to craft a divorce agreement which is fair to both parties, preserves assets, and emphasizes children’s wellbeing. With the average Los Angeles divorce costing $100,000[5], Peace Talks’ average divorce is $8500. Peace Talks’ founder, Diana Mercer is also the co-author of Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Fireside 2001).
For more information on divorce mediation or to schedule an appointment, or for details on the free mediation program, please visit or contact Linda Duarte at (310) 301-2100 or e-mail

Free mediation services include up to 6 hours of [otherwise] billable time: 3 hours of mediation and 3 hours for a mediation resolution roadmap and report or deal memo. The best predictor of the total time a divorce takes is the amount of acrimony between the spouses, so 3 hours of mediation time may or may not be sufficient to complete any particular divorce. Legal paperwork and drafting not included. Peace Talks chooses the mediator(s) assigned to the case. Free services offered on the 1st Monday of each month; other days may be added depending on demand. There is no obligation to pay Peace Talks for additional services, paperwork, or drafting. For those who are non-indigent and who don’t qualify for the free program, Peace Talks offers a sliding fee scale. Each appointment requires a $50 deposit to secure the appointment time. The $50 is refunded at the end of the free appointment or credited against additional services purchased.
[1] New York Times, December 30th, 2008
[2] February 2, 2009
[3] Boston.Com, December 25, 2008
[4] GFK Roper Custom Research
[5] Presiding Family Judge Marjorie Steinberg as quoted in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, May 4, 2008

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Cisco and Peace Talks

Peace Talks was a Cisco technology award package winner in 2006.

For a small business like ours, it’s all about leveraging our time and technology. Our Cisco phones and technology help us to do that all day long, every day.

The IP Phones Cisco installed for us can be customized in an incredible number of ways.

Just one example: We use an auto-attendant which clients may access after hours, like many businesses do. But with our Cisco phones, we also programmed a second auto-attendant for mediators to use. Since most of our mediators are independent contractors, jugging a variety of projects, having one phone number and voicemail that they can give to their personal clients and access without interrupting Peace Talks personnel is a huge value add for them. We can provide that at no cost at all. That tiny feature, which barely scrapes the surface of the features the phone can offer, is incredibly valuable for our practice.

My favorite application is that we can expand the system using either software phones installed on laptops and connected to the internet, or additional handsets in remote locations. For example, our Cisco technology package includes a handset for me at home, so if I’m working from my home office, the phone rings just as it would if I was at Headquarters….and callers are unaware that I am not at my Peace Talks desk. When I place outgoing calls, recipients’ caller ID shows the Peace Talks number, so I don’t have to worry about client calls on my home or cell phone at 3 am. With my IP Communicator software, I use my computer exactly as I do my phone at the office. When I make calls from a hotel room at a conference halfway across the country, it rings to clients as coming from Headquarters and my voicemail is accessible in the same way as it is from my office phone.

And, I must say, we love our Cisco partners, Creative Business Concepts, Inc. (in particular, Jim Froggatt) have been terrific. They’ve really listened to our needs. They came ready to not only install and program the phones, but to switch gears as we discovered additional possibilities for applications and programming. Jim, especially, is a huge asset. He was a technology trainer with the US Army, so he knows how to teach technology applications without going over our heads.

We’re not quite there yet, but Cisco’s [very amazing] videoconferencing technology will be key for us in expanding to a national (and international) practice. The videoconferencing is so realistic that it looks and sounds like you’re actually in the room with folks who are half a world away. As it’s installed in business centers and business hotels, and later adapted for small business use, it’s a technology we’ll be able to use to do mediations. The 3 large screen TV’s gave us so much real time detail that I was able to read micro-expressions on people’s faces. Before, when I thought of videoconferencing, I imagined pixellated web cams with sound that didn’t sync with the jerky movements on the screen. Now, it’s 99% as good as being in the same room with someone. Unbelievable!

Thanks, Cisco!